mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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La Belle Capuchine. (21; 7:14)

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi.

Hate the Ratcatcher.
He's abusive & toxic...
but his name is Frank.

I'm rarely this angry at a book. Screw you, Boy, Snow, Bird for being a good book for about 90% of your length, & then using the final 10% as a poison pill to retroactively sabotage the rest of the story. Screw you for being an ending so bad that I am going to stop reading Helen Oyeyemi. Which is a real shame, because I was digging it after reading White is for Witching. "Let's do retellings of fairytales-- the old school, bloody kind-- while dissecting issues of race, class & gender" is my whole thing. Ah, dangit. & there are so many little bits of it-- Bird talking to spiders, cosplaying while black, La Belle Capuchine-- that I really liked. Does everyone have a different way of looking in a mirror? I liked that bit particularly; I spend all my time looking in a mirror actually using it to look behind me; I don't usually look at myself, I look past myself. Found that to particularly fit into the novel's study of gender & beauty; that's some male gaze metaphor right there, huh? Or the part where they talk about different styles of love, the "fiercely interior convention" of ardent love, which is only a good thing if it is a side-dish to "other forms of integrity," the whole schema was coming together. All of that is washed away by the last section of the book. See, the book follows three viewpoint characters; the beautiful mother, product of abuse, the beautiful stepchild, product of racism, & the beautiful child, product of being a weirdo. The fourth act returns to the mother, to the "evil queen," & it is tempting to dismiss the terrible ending of the book as being flawed because she is a flawed vessel...but really, the voice is never questioned, is never subverted, just really seems...distressingly authorial. Because here's the "twist"; her abusive father was trans & he came out at trans because he was sexually assaulted. Right there my hackles were up, but...well, Oyeyemi writes about women, & race, & beauty, & she doesn't flinch back. Violence is a reality for many trans people, & I wanted to trust Oyeyemi to pull it off without it being terrible. Well guess what. She doesn't. It gets worse, in fact, with the characters not only persistently misgendering him, but ending the book going on a quest to go "save her." Ugh, what a gut-wrenchingly terrible turn of events. You could argue that it is the narrator who is terrible, or that because the book is historical-- set during the early days of Civil Rights-- times & attitudes were worse than today's. Here's the thing though; the story doesn't dispute the narrator's account. There isn't an authorial check. In fact it ends with a triumphant bonding odyssey to go "rescue" the trans character. & then...well, the silence of the end of the book. Could I imagine a way in which a hypothetical fifth act that redeems the story? I'd like to, but I am not going for a no-prize here. I'm taking what is actually on the page, & it is incredibly disappointing. I'm done with Oyeyemi, I think, unless she announces a sequel to this called "Ratcatcher."
Tags: books, haiku, oyeyemi
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